The Shetland Pony originated on the cluster of islands located off the Scottish coast of Northern England known as the Shetland Islands. These hardy, sturdy ponies roamed the hills and moors of Shetland as early as the 8th or 9th centuries. The ponies were first introduced to the United States in the 1800s and have since been selectively bred for refinement resulting in a sturdy but elegant show pony. Today there are two distinct types of Shetland Pony recognized by the breed’s registry here in the United States. Division A Shetland Ponies— otherwise known as the Classic Shetland Pony— have retained the original sturdy rugged breed characteristics of their Shetland Isle ancestors.
Out-crossing Classic Shetlands with registered Hackneys or registered Welsh ponies has resulted in a lighter, more elegant and animated show pony well-suited to the driving and harness classes offered in today’s show ring. This type— known as the Modern Shetland Pony— must still retain at least 50% Shetland blood and represents Division B of the registry. All Shetlands, whether Division A or B, average approximately 9.3 hands (or 39 inches), but must never exceed 11.2 hands (or 46 inches) in height, and they can be found in any color. Shetland Ponies are well-suited to the performance demands of pony hunters, carriage driving, modern fine harness, and roadster driving.